4 Outside Factors That Influence Your Most Important Choices

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Comedian Mike Birbiglia was right: “I would be remiss if I attributed our decision to have a child to one moment … In movies and plays, it’s always a moment that determines an important decision in life, but in life, it’s more fluid – a series of moments that form an evolution, ”he writes in his book, New, on the decision to have a child or not.

Behind Birbiglia’s “series of moments” may lie cultural expectations, the contribution of a friend or a memory from childhood. Factors like these can drastically influence your decisions, even if you don’t know them. This is true whether you are deciding where to live, which house or car to buy, whether to have children or how many children to have, and when is the right time to have them.

We don’t decide alone

A study in the Journal of Family Psychology confirms that little is known about what motivates people to want to give birth. But those who contemplate the question are influenced by more than practical financial or professional aspects. Seeing someone else’s kids play happily together in a sandbox or remembering a happy childhood with a sister or brother, or what your friends are doing, is subtle, and at times, under the ‘engines. Surface, we cannot always recognize or recognize. We like to believe that we are thinking on our own, but we are not, especially when it comes to life changing choices. Several factors in particular tend to have a huge impact on the decisions we make, including whether to start a family and how many children to have.

4 key decision factors

Your family history. Whether your childhood was happy or unhappy can be a powerful and obvious force. You may want to replicate the family you grew up in or stay as far away from it as possible.

MaryBeth, * 42, adores her older sister. “I wanted two children. In my head were all the fun times she and I had together. My children were going to have the exact same experience as me, that was the plan. But MaryBeth, who has a 6-year-old son, has faced pregnancy and childbirth obstacles that have ruled out a second child.

In contrast, Robin, 65, a mother of an only child, had strong feelings about not wanting siblings for her daughter. “I have a sister and we weren’t close, and our relationship was difficult. It’s good that we live far from each other. We would never be those adult siblings who rely on each other and do everything together. My unpleasant relationship with her was one of the reasons I only wanted one child.

Shannon, 38, an only child, explains how her mother’s feelings played a major role in the family she chose for herself: “I realized that the essential element in my decision to have three children was that my mother didn’t want an only child. She has had several failed marriages and several miscarriages. An only child was never his plan. In fact, it was in some ways his greatest pain.

“Although I was quite happy as an only child, I never thought of having an only child myself. I was raised believing that there was something better and that to be. an only child was not desirable. I wonder how my perception would be different if my experience as an only child had been the one my mother wanted. Until recently, I had never considered being an only child to be one. desirable thing.

No one in your family or circle of friends may be openly or directly trying to influence you, but you can have a plan based on your family history.

Your memories. It is not uncommon to glorify the relationships and good times we have spent with our siblings or parents. This is where your memory can trick you into becoming cloudy over time. As the details of our memories fade, “we make decisions based on subjective memory,” suggest Yana Fandakova, of the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues. authors in their research on how our memories have changed. rather than precise memories, guide decision making. Lead author Julia Lifanov of the University of Birmingham extends her study published in Nature Communication: “Memories become less vibrant and detailed over time, with only the essentials ultimately preserved.”

You may remember the holidays, for example, as being happy, with a large group of family members and friends. In your mind, you are gathered around the holiday table. Perhaps there is a football match between the main course and the dessert. What you may not remember precisely, if at all, are tensions, family disagreements, or hurt feelings – so painful then, but long forgotten. We forget certain things and memories become distorted.

Derlin, 42, has fond memories of spending time with loved ones over Thanksgiving and Christmas. He also has a positive relationship with his brother. “We have always supported each other and we still do,” he says. “We talk at least twice a week and I thought I wanted two kids until I had my daughter. Parenting was not what I thought it would be. She didn’t sleep all night until she was 7 years old. Derlin holds firm against his wife’s desire for another child, having enjoyed the last three years of restful sleep. “As much as I would love to have big family reunions, so I won’t forget those difficult and sleepless first years.

Group influence and Group trust. Friends also influence decision making. “You look around at what other people seem to be doing and it affects your motivation,” said Douglas Story, director of research at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs. The New York Times. He was referring to how people make decisions during the pandemic, but the bottom line applies to many different circumstances and choices.

It can seem like everyone around you has an SUV, for example, or two or three kids, and it seems like they are managing life in a seamless, even happy, way. Their choices may seem very attractive. Your neighbors all seem to be redesigning the landscape, and you think maybe you should be doing the same.

Sally, 38, mother of 9, explained the influence of having children this way: “People really think the American dream is to have two or more children… and they’re not even considering having one. Male and female friends told me, “Before I knew what happened, we had so many children. They seem surprised. I didn’t want to have babies to conform to society, which I think so many people do.

The power of friends you trust and the confidence you have in their choices can move you one way or another. Cassie, however, is not influenced by her friends. “We have resisted the overarching expectation that four people constitute a family. I liked being unconventional by not living in the suburbs with a bunch of kids, ”says the 41-year-old mother of an 8-year-old. Most of her friends have more than one child, but she is out of step with peer pressure.

Count on the seesaw

Your pros and cons of buying that car, moving to a new home, or adding to your family can change frequently. These sometimes unrecognized influences, from friends to the expectations of society, can lead us to frequently reconsider our choices.

Most of us can count on flip-flops or feel uncertain. Individual experiences, the way our brains remember (and what we forget), and the choices of our friends all influence our decisions, especially those about motherhood.

* The names of participants in the one-child research project have been changed to protect their identities.

Copyright @ 2021 by Susan Newman


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